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MSHSL announces rule amendments for baseball and softball

The varsity field at Eagle Park, where Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta softball plays home games, is partially covered with snow on Thursday, April 5. Because this is a norm throughout Minnesota right now, the MSHSL amended two rules for the 2018 regular seasons for baseball and softball. Brooke Kern / Stevens County Times

The unusual spring weather has prompted the Minnesota State High School League to make a few changes with spring sports, it announced on April 11.

Because of the unseasonably cool temperatures, poor field conditions, frozen turf, and supply of officials, the MSHSL's board of directors' executive committee has taken action to increase the opportunities for member schools to schedule and complete contests in a condensed season, a MSHSL news release said. The MSHSL met in a special meeting on April 11 to discuss spring sports, the release said.

These new rule amendments deal with the length of games and adding a waiver process to use non-registered officials for games.

Several local coaches said the changes should help them get more games in this season.

Length of Game

The length of game amendment states that two five-inning games can be played as a doubleheader format. It's similar to an amendment the MSHSL had for the 2013 season, Hancock baseball coach Chad Christianson said.

"We had a similar spring to this in 2013 and [the MSHSL] came out with a very similar amendment," Christianson said. "Being allowed to play five inning games (for doubleheaders) will help us squeeze more of these games in where in the past we needed to play seven-inning doubleheaders."

Rescheduling doubleheaders and playing back-to-back games could have a big effect on teams' pitching staff thanks to the new pitch count rule for the 2018 season. However that could turn into an advantage for Morris Area / Chokio-Alberta since the Tigers have depth at that position, coach Kirby Sayles said.

"Pitching is going to be tough for everyone this year, with games getting backed up, which could turn into an advantage for us. A lot of teams don't have deep pitching, but because of our youth programs in Morris, we develop a bigger pool (of kids) that can get the ball across the plate and at least have some experience (at the position)," Sayles said.

Morris Area / Chokio-Alberta softball coach Mary Holmberg has been through this once or twice before in her 38-year coaching career, most recently in 2013 and 1996.

"We have been through this before. The modified innings will depend on teams schedules. I'm sure as the season progresses, it will all work out," Holmberg said.

Hancock head coach Ryan Snyder, in his second year coaching, just wants to get his team on the field playing games.

"I'm thankful that softball doesn't have a pitch count, but our pitching staff will still need to have a lot of depth if we are playing four-plus games in a week. Once the games begin it will be a really fast and short season, which is especially unfortunate for the seniors," Snyder said. "I know for myself and girls we are just ready to play a game, so whatever has to happen for that to take place we are okay with at this point."

Officiating Waiver Process

The MSHSL news release said, "While every effort should be made to have two registered officials," non-registered officials can be used by the implemented waiver process. Using a non-registered official would require a waiver, which could be obtained by emailing the MSHSL Coordinator of Officials prior to the first pitch of the contest.

For softball, two registered officials is still recommended, but one is required. "Using a single non-registered official requires a waiver," the MSHSL news release said. For baseball, two registered officials are required and using one registered and one non-registered official or using only one registered official requires a waiver.

How this impacts MACA and Hancock will depend on how thinly stretched their respective officials associations are, Christianson said.

"It is very difficult from behind home plate with one ump to determine if the person trying to steal a base was safe or out," Christianson said of using just one ump for games. "If the associations get stretched thin though, it will help us get games in knowing that we only need one ump at the game."

Brooke Kern

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